The standards in keeping children safe cover four areas:
Standard 1: Policy. The organisation develops a policy that describes how it is committed to preventing, and responding appropriately to, harm to children
Standard 2: People. The organisation places clear responsibilities and expectations on its staff and associates and supports them to understand and act in line with these.
Standard 3: Procedures. The organisation creates a child-safe environment through implementing child safeguarding procedures that are applied across the organisation.
Standard 4: Accountability. The organisation monitors and reviews its safeguarding measures. General principles:The Standards are based on the following set of principles:
• All children have equal rights to protection from harm.
• Everybody has a responsibility to support the protection of children.
• Organisations have a duty of care to children with whom they work, are in contact with, or who are affected by their work and operations.
• If organisations work with partners they have a responsibility to help partners meet the minimum requirements on protection. All actions on child safeguarding are taken in the best interests of the child, which are paramount.
Standards are used widely in all sectors to ensure quality in the delivery of a product or service, and accountability to those who are using or benefiting from them. In the aid and development sector there are a number of sets of standards that can be used to ensure an organisation’s programmes, operations and staff are delivering effectively. At an international level some of these global standards and principles also relate to child safeguarding, for example on the impact of child labour. A range of other standards in the humanitarian sector commit organisations to ensuring their programmes, staff and operations “Do no harm”.
These include The Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS), 2012, CPWG; The 2010 HAP Standard in Accountability and Quality Management, 2010, HAP International; The Sphere Handbook – Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, 2011, Sphere Project; Code of Good Practice in the management and support of aid personnel, 2003, People in Aid. The Keeping Children Safe Standards outline the key elements that should be in place to keep children safe.
They also list requirements that will help you meet the Standards. The Standards describe good practice for organisations to ensure their programmes, operations, staff and partners do not put children at risk of harm and to enable them to respond appropriately when concerns and incidents arise. As such, these Standards provide a comprehensive benchmark for preventing harm to children and are complimentary to other standards and principles. Organisations which are already working to a set of standards such as those highlighted above, should use Keeping Children Safe Standards to ensure their quality and accountability initiatives do include children and safeguards for children.
Applying the standards locally
The Standards have been written in a way that makes them relevant and achievable in all contexts. However they may be more difficult or challenging to implement in some countries and local contexts than in others. Examples of some of the difficulties that have arisen in applying the Standards locally are:
• Reporting abuse to local or national authorities may not be straightforward if the reports are not handled properly. There are, however, always organisations working nationally and locally that can provide advice on reporting cases, and local mapping will identify these.
• Applying standards of practice, which are not supported by national law; for instance where the age of consent is less than 18 years and where young people under 18 are legally able to work can be problematic. However organisations must remember that Keeping Children Safe Standards are designed to prevent harm to all children under 18. Staff behaviour is expected to adhere to this standard. There are enormous variations in local practice and circumstances but experience in applying the Standards in different contexts demonstrates that they do not need changing or diluting because of cultural or contextual differences.
Nor do practices that are harmful to children have to be tolerated or condoned. Organisations should discuss how best to apply the Standards in the local context, what behaviour they should demand of their own staff and partners and how they want to be credible as child-safe organisations.
Advantages of Implementing Keeping Children Safe Standards
Children are protected
No standards can offer complete protection for children, but following these Standards minimises the risk to children of harm.
Organisation staff and associates are protected
By implementing these Standards, all staff and associates will be clear about how they are expected to behave with children and what to do if there are concerns about the safety of a child.
The organisation and its reputation is protected
By implementing these Standards organisations make clear their commitment to keeping children safe. The Standards will help them to move towards best practice in this area
• Okusaga Raphael is Child Safeguarding Officer, St. Patrick’s Missionary society, District of West Africa, Maryland, Lagos.